Last month, I spent some quality time enjoying the lower half of our beautiful state. I visited 4 high schools, talked with 7 middle school classes, and made it out to the Okefenokee Forestry Field Day. Along the way, I was able to meet with several students who’d never heard of Warnell – it’s one of the first questions I ask. I’m always surprised to see one or two hands shoot up or lazily flop about at chest-level (it depended on how early in the morning it was); it seems that Warnell is a mystery much like our current students are (check out some of our earlier posts to figure out this reference). Sure enough, some classes had no idea Warnell was part of the University of Georgia while others were surprised to learn that the school existed all together. While visiting Perry, Tifton, Rochelle, Bainbridge, Folkston, and Valdosta, I learned a few things…
1) Many students said they felt it was too hard to go to UGA. My answer to that is simple. UGA compares a student to the other applicants for that graduating class, they value diverse and rigorous coursework over SAT scores, and if at first you don’t succeed try again. Transferring is a great option for many students.
2) 12-17 year-olds think outside the box, and they have been known to render me speechless. At every school, I gave a camp ground senerio when discussing the negative impacts people have on an ecosystem. Every class thought of building fires (and air pollution associated with smoke), littering, and erosion. One creative class brought up a point that I hadn’t thought of before. Where do you answer nature’s call when camping? Everybody’s gotta go! After lots of laughs and a room full of ewws, it turned into a great debate on how we would manage a camp ground to minimize the amount of human waste deposited in a natural system. Who knew my example would take such a turn!
3) Every educator should have a dead animal box. During my visits, I brought along a a box of preserved skins and skulls of native Georgia wildlife to talk about at the end of my presentation (just in case I ran out of things to say). I have come to find that teenagers scream and squeal just as loud when there are dead animals in the room as they do when the animals are alive. I’ll admit, it was pretty hard to contain my laughter when a group of students mozied into the room, began to sit down, and then saw my specimens out of the corner of their eye. The way some kids jumped four rows over or ran out of the room was priceless. It was also hysterical to watch the faces of young men light up when asked to identify, touch, and pass around a stuffed raccoon, opossum, bobcat, or squirrel.
4) It is 100% possible to make a career out of your passions. I encourage all students, regardless of what those passions may be, to find out what they are and pursue them. For those who love being outside and find their happiness in the woods, parks, and nature centers, Warnell is a perfect place to explore those interests while preparing for a future career as a natural resource manager. Success is doing what you love.